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New roundabout, but is it keeping children safe?

Posted at 9:01 PM, Aug 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-22 23:25:14-04

SECURITY WIDEFIELD — Some parents are worried about a newly installed roundabout in Security Widefield meant to keep kids and drivers safe.

El Paso County installed the roundabout for the Fountain Mesa Road and Caballero Avenue intersection to better manage traffic congestion, and make it safer for pedestrians to cross. Particularly kids coming and going from Janitell Junior High School.

"I just find it a hassle walking to school, and having to take an extra four minutes to get to school when the walk back home would usually be two minutes," said Brian Sanford, Seventh Grader, Janitell Junior High School.

While there are safety measures in place at the roundabout including signs and flashing lights, administrators are asking students to use the crosswalk at the Lowes since it is a familiar route for them. Last year during the construction of the roundabout, students used it to cross the road.

"I think it is safer to cross at the roundabout because they have flashing lights at the roundabout, and they don't have them at the other crosswalks. You have to cross more crosswalks without lights then crosswalks with lights," said Sanford.

There is only one rectangular rapid flashing beacon at the roundabout crosswalk near the school. RRFB's use high-intensity LEDs which are much more noticeable for drivers both the day and night. The amber color and quick flash pattern make them easily visible in all conditions. The beacons remain dark until a pedestrian pushes the button to activate the flashing lights.

"On the roundabout, a lot of the cars don't want to stop even though it is state law to stop for children. They won't stop, I will push the button and they'll speed right through," said Sanford. "A couple of weeks ago, someone knocked over a sign in the roundabout and they replaced it."

"The kids will utilize the button on the crosswalk, and that is the only one that has a button. They'll stand there, cars will go through and not yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk," said Gavin Smith, Janitell Junior High School parent.

He continued, "When we had the town meeting over at Janitell Junior High School, we were instructed this was going to be the best option. We were informed we didn't get a say in the matter, this is what is going to be done. We had simply asked them to put a left turn arrow, and they were like no we've done multiple studies and it shows they work better. As long as people know how to use it, it makes sense. Watching people navigate it sometimes, especially in the mornings, you've got Fort Carson traffic headed out, work traffic headed out, and buses. We are on a bus route, and we also have EMS that come through here. It is really difficult when people are trying to navigate that roundabout, it can get scary,"

Smith believes more needs to be done to stop drivers who speed going into the roundabout.

"It is like as soon as they enter that traffic, they got to go. I believe the speed limit is 15 mph when you enter it, but you have traffic coming off of Fountain Mesa at 40 mph. There is no speed bumps or warning signs. What drivers are forgetting is that when they enter off this side, they are entering right into a school zone which is 20 mph," said Smith.

He doesn't like that administrators are telling kids to use the crosswalk at Lowes rather than the roundabout, especially since it is a busier intersection.

"They would like them to cross at the Lowes light, and then walk down, but that still ruins the function. My son still has to cross right here (near the roundabout), and then he doesn't cross with the light as he would right there or there," said Smith.

His neighbor Misty Zink has noticed improvements since the installation of the roundabout.

"Before the roundabout was put in, there were multiple car accidents, I was always having to call 911. There would be periods when you didn't have any accidents, and then you would have them back to back to back. Having to call 911, and having Fountain Police on speed dial is probably never a good thing. I've seen it all, I've seen some horrific things, it was bad until the roundabout got here," said Zink.

She hasn't seen any of the kids have problems with using the crosswalks at the roundabout.

"I've actually seen the kids pretty well behaved and using the crosswalks. There are button at both of the crosswalks right here, so it flashes and lets drivers know people are using the crosswalks. It has been fine, it has actually helped a lot," said Zink.

El Paso County Public Works considered multiple options to address traffic and safety issues at the intersection.

"We hired a designer, and we didn't tell him what to build. We didn't say we wanted a roundabout, we said we wanted some options and let us pick what works best. Obviously, we looked at a roundabout but we also looked at just changing the signal timings, adding lanes, and adding a turn lane in the middle. We looked at quite a few different options to find what option worked best. We also looked at adding an additional lane in each direction to add capacity, but we actually found that the roundabout had the smallest footprint and performed the best when it comes to traffic and safety," said Brett Hartzell, Project Manager, El Paso County Public Works.

Their studies show that roundabouts reduce speed, the number of conflict points (locations in intersection where vehicles merge, diverge, or cross), and the number of accidents.

"One of the main things that is great about roundabouts is that it decreases the number the two types of deadly accidents (Left-turn and head-on). It slows the vehicles going through the roundabouts down. Why that matters is because when a vehicle going 20 mph versus 30 or 40 mph, it is easier to avoid the crash so less accidents. When an accident does happen, it is less severe and it provides pedestrians with more time to react since vehicles are going slower. Roundabouts also can handle traffic more efficiently. there are more vehicles in the intersection at the same time," Hartzell.

While some parents and kids would like more flashing lights (RRFB) , Hartzell says too many can be a bad thing.

"They are actually not standard for single lane roundabouts, we added those based on the public feedback we got during the open houses. A lot of people were asking about pedestrian safety since there are some schools nearby. Usually you see them on multi-lane roundabouts, and they aren't required there. We added those for additional safety because of the schools and feedback from the public. We wanted to go above and beyond what is standard, we only put it on the south side because that is where all of the traffic we saw crossed. You actually don't want too many of those because you don't want them to be a standard item that people get use too," said Hartzell.

Parents and their kids are still concerned about speed, but Hartzell says the roundabout design prevents drivers from speeding.